I’ve been working a lot recently, in an office, with adults who listen and don’t break everything. They don’t shout, fight, or fall off chairs and injure themselves.
Nor do they need help in the toilet.
At the end of the day, my colleagues are still alive, without any assistance from me whatsoever.
I like it. I really like it.
Except I wish I didn’t enjoy it quite so much, because our lives would be so much easier if I didn’t work. If I hadn’t struggled so much with being a stay-at-home mum whose days felt like one long, open-ended project that I was as likely to finish as I was to climb Everest, backwards.
Perhaps if I’d been able to pat myself on the back occasionally for singing the baby to sleep, or dangling a rattle for him to swat, things would have been different.
But the truth is, whilst I love my children more than I ever thought possible, I found it difficult having them barnacled to my ankle/breast/hip 24/7 – and I really missed work.
Anyway, they started growing up, not needing me quite so much. And since it costs money just to stand still in Dubai, going back to work not only stopped me from going round the bend, it also made sense.So now we juggle. We make complicated arrangements involving my husband, our nanny, and kind mothers who do me an enormous favour and bring my youngest son home from school if needed.
I bark orders as I grab the keys to leave. “Don’t forget, you need to go to school 15 minutes early as it’s ‘Look at your child’s learning journal’ day. And then drop LB and C [our nanny] at the park for the class playdate. Oh and there’s French homework.”
DH looks at me, wanting to throttle me.
(He’s here quite a bit in the day, due to an erratic flying schedule that often sends him away at weekends instead. I know we’re lucky in that respect as one of us is usually around.)
I rush home from work and stuff money into envelopes for school trips/teachers’ gifts. I attempt to come up with the latest demands from school for things I don’t just happen to have lying around (yesterday it was 31 of something…buttons, beans. I sent Lego).
I worry a lot about missing things.
The Festive Sing-a-long. The Winter Festival. “And, oh god, Decoration Day. It’s next week, in the middle of the day [about as convenient as a hole in the head]. I can’t go!” I think to myself.
But it’s the mummy guilt that really gets me.
“Mum, how many days are you working? Why are you working again?” my children ask.
And the line my youngest son came out with this morning: “What takes you so long at work, Mum?”
Those Cosmopolitan magazines that told every female who’d listen in the 70s that it was her right to have it all/have an orgasm/combine motherhood, homemaking and career changed everything, didn’t they?
They did. They told us it was our right, it was possible and they hinted that it might just be easier!!! The feckers. I think they may have been smoking stuff in the 1970s.
Whatever they were smoking, it must have been good!
I have done it both ways, and I can tell you that neither one is easy: both come with their own sets of anxieties. It would have been nice if the 70s had given way to a society that supported women in their choices – whatever they were – but it does seem like we have turned parenting into some kind of competitive sport with two opposing – and highly critical – teams. I’m thankful I’m at the teenage end now – I can see that the working/not working never really mattered that much, even though it seemed very important at the time. I suppose you never really ‘relax’ about parenting, but I feel like we’ve gotten to a point where we are starting to see that our kids will not turn out badly. They’re kind, responsible, hardworking, funny – all the stuff that I always wanted for them – and both of them enjoy our company, which happened despite the fact that we set boundaries and limits. My kids don’t remember the times that I forgot to send something that started with the letter ‘A’ in their alphabet bag, or whether I baked or bought the cookies for the Christmas party. They remember the things we did together. That’s it. Don’t beat yourself up – you are doing a fabulous job – and it really does get easier, I promise. You really will look back fondly at these years, even if it doesn’t seem likely right now.
THANK YOU Ms C! xx I hope my boys turn out just like yours!